High School Sports

Unintended path has led to coaching success for Quinlan

Wayne Quinlan can remember being encouraged to despise soccer. As a football junkie in high school, he figured soccer players simply weren't tough enough to play his sport.

The belief stuck with him during his football career at Beaufort High School. And when he graduated in 1976, he left for The Citadel with one goal in mind.

"The day I left Beaufort High, my dream in life was to come back and be the football coach," he said.

Somewhere along the way, Quinlan slipped off that track. But he's managed to find solid footing in a place he never expected -- the soccer field.

Quinlan has served as a high school soccer coach for 28 years -- the past three at Hilton Head High -- and he's on the verge of adding his most significant honor yet.

A committee within the South Carolina High School Soccer Coaches Association (SCHSSCA) will induct Quinlan and Brookland-Cayce coach Kevin Heise into the SCHSSCA Hall of Fame during the North/South Soccer Classic on Saturday at Mount Pleasant. They will be the 10th and 11th inductees into the hall of fame, which started in 2007.

The two coached together in last year's Clash of the Carolinas soccer game, leading Team South Carolina to its first ever victory in the series.

"It came as a surprise to me," Quinlan said. "... I really don't feel like I've accomplished all that much, other than the fact I've coached it for 28 years."

Those 28 years have included stops at four high schools: Beaufort High, Hilton Head High, Eastside and Dutch Fork. He's totaled 321 career wins and nine region titles. The Seahawks have won a region championship two consecutive seasons.

While a state championship has thus far eluded his resume, his career is full of rags-to-riches stories.

Quinlan began his coaching career at Beaufort High, where he launched the school's soccer program in 1982-83 after several of his students approached him with the idea. Although Quinlan had never given thought to coaching soccer, he took a class at The Citadel that made him a certified coach in South Carolina.

It was futbol -- rather than his dream of football -- but there was some resemblance.

"We didn't have our own jerseys, so we wore football jerseys our first game," Quinlan recalled with a laugh.

Quinlan stayed for five seasons at Beaufort High before moving on to Eastside and eventually to Dutch Fork, where he moved to start another soccer program -- this one with more success.

Quinlan came within a couple of penalty kicks of winning a state championship in 1998, when Dutch Fork fell to Irmo in the title game after defeating Irmo earlier in the regular season.

He returned home to Beaufort County three years ago to coach Hilton Head High -- again seeking the opportunity to build a program that lacked stability. In his first meeting with potential players -- 60 of them, he estimated -- Quinlan asked players to raise their hand if they had more than one coach during their high school career. All 60 raised their hand, he said.

"Three or four years from now, when I ask you this question again, none of you will raise your hands," Quinlan told them. "... I wanted them to know I was committed to their program for the long haul."

He has it moving in the right direction. Hilton Head High has won consecutive region titles in the last two years.

The Seahawks finished 16-6-1 and advanced to the Lower State semifinals this season, which included a victory against nationally-ranked Chattahoochee.

"We can compete at a very high level. We proved that this year," Quinlan said. "We beat ... very good teams on our schedule.

"We're on the verge of doing something especially significant on the field."


321 -- Career victories

9 -- Region championships

2 -- Region championships in three seasons at HHH

1 -- Lower State championship (with Dutch Fork, 1998)